FEARS for the future of Tamworth's George Bryan Centre surfaced this week – the latest in a series of healthcare shake-ups in the town.
The centre, which shares a site with the Sir Robert Peel Hospital, specialises in assessment and medical treatment of those with mental health problems.
South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has confirmed that the status of the George Bryan Centre is "under consideration" as part of a general review of mental health provision in the area, but has not confirmed its imminent closure.
The Tamworth Herald understands, however, that the centre will close in April next year.
An online petition to save the centre has already attracted hundreds of signatures.
Alison Bussey, director of nursing and chief operating officer at the trust, said: "Whilst no decisions have been made regarding the future of the George Bryan Centre, its status is under consideration as part of a more general review of local mental health services.
"The evidence base supports treating people with mental health problems in the community, not in hospital. Community services in the Tamworth area include wellbeing services, community mental health teams for all ages, dementia services, and a crisis response and home treatment service.
"There are also specialist community Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.
"These community services have been strengthened over recent years to support more people to receive care without the need to go into hospital.
"Inpatient mental health care is currently provided at the George Bryan Centre, at St George's Hospital in Stafford and at The Redwoods Centre in Shrewsbury.
"People are admitted to these beds, from across the region, based on their clinical needs rather than where they live.
"It is important we respond to the challenge to ensure that healthcare remains sustainable, both in financial terms, but also to offer evidence based care in appropriate, safe environments, supported by the necessary staffing and infrastructure.
"Our dedicated and compassionate staff are committed to ensuring services are delivered by the right person, at the right time, to deliver the right outcomes for each individual needing care and we will continue to engage with our service users, their carers, local people, our staff and other stakeholders to ensure local services are provided in the best way to meet their needs."
The review of the future of the George Bryan Unit is entirely separate from the current consultation on the future of the Sir Robert Peel Hospital, which is being carried out by Burton Hospitals NHS Trust.
There is no formal consultation on the George Bryan Centre at present.
A petition about the centre on change.org, says: "South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust have confirmed that the services at this location will definitely close. This could be as soon as March 2018.
"This will mean that anyone who needs inpatient assessment and care for their mental health needs in the above areas will be admitted to the wards in the Stafford area.
"This increased geographical distance will undoubtedly have a significant impact on patients and their families who will soon have to travel over an hour by car to visit and support their loved ones. Patients will be displaced to an unfamiliar environment without the support networks provided by their local community.
"These changes are not something that the community can allow to happen. Together we can insist that the NHS reconsider this drastic and ill-advised decision."
Cllr Tony Madge, a keen campaigner on local healthcare issues, said: "The George Bryan Centre provides a valuable service to the community.
"Tamworth seems to be neglected on many fronts especially where mental health is concerned. This is a service we cannot afford to lose."
Do you think losing the George Bryan Centre would be a big blow for Tamworth?
0+ VOTES SO FAR
Yes, the centre is vital to the people of Tamworth
No, we need to focus more on protecting the Sir Robert Peel Hospital's MIU